Eggplant and caramel

And dancing vinegar

This week’s recipe is an ode to dining out decadently. Win Son, the Taiwanese-American restaurant in Brooklyn, is one of the places I’ve done this best. Decadence these days calls for a little more resourcefulness, and as I was browsing Win Son’s takeout menu the other night I noticed that I had most of the ingredients to make their fried eggplant dish. With a bit of help from the internet I made a simple, satisfying at-home version. I didn’t have labneh or cilantro on hand, but ultimately it’s the Chinkiang vinegar caramel that makes the whole thing.

Win Son’s fried eggplant

3 small Chinese eggplants, sliced into thin rounds

Salt

1/2 C cashews, roughly chopped

1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder

Squeeze of lime

Drizzle of honey

1/3 C Chinkiang vinegar*

1/3 C sugar

1 C rice flour

Vegetable oil for frying

Labneh and cilantro (optional)

Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to a couple of hours. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 350°F. Place the cashews in a small bowl and add the 5 spice powder, lime, honey, and a pinch of salt. Mix to coat the cashews, then spread evenly on a small baking sheet. Roast until caramelized and godlen, about 20 minutes.

To make the caramel, spread the sugar in a small pan in an even layer. Stir over medium heat until it melts and starts to turn light brown. Slowly add the vinegar, and stir until it becomes smooth again. Pour the caramel back into the liquid measure you used for the vinegar and set aside.

Pour oil into a heavy pot or pan until it comes up an inch or two from the bottom. Heat to 350°F. Rinse the eggplants and pat them dry, then toss them in a bowl with rice flour. Dry the colander and return the coated eggplants so that you can shake off any excess flour. Fry the eggplants in batches, a minute or so on each side, so that they’re golden and crispy. Place them on a paper towel-covered plate as you go.

Once all the eggplants are fried, place them in a serving dish and drizzle caramel over, mixing a little as you go. To serve, sprinkle with cashews and optional cilantro, plus a bit of labneh on the side.

*To learn about Chinese vinegars, here’s a good place to start.


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